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Smart Water Gardening


Notes: Adam Grubb, Very Edible Gardening

Plants need water, and there’s no way around that! But with a little clever planning we can keep water use to a minimum and get through summer extremes with a sense of beauty, calmness – and an abundance of food.

There’s a lot of strategies we can employ, and most can work in unison.

  • Improve and protect the soil
    • mulch is essential to protect soil from desiccating winds and sun
    • increase the organic matter in your soil by using compost and the ongoing work of living plants – building organic matter radically improves the water-holding capacity of the soil
  • Choose appropriate irrigation
    • dripline irrigation is slow release, making it very water efficient especially if under a layer of mulch
    • water at appropriate times (early morning is good) so that water penetrates well
  • Consider microclimates and plant selection
    • where possible, provide hot summer wind protection – the hottest winds tend to come from the north to north west
    • plant appropriately to microclimates
      • choose drought and heat hardy plants, especially in exposed areas
      • plant heat sensitive plants in areas with summer afternoon shade
  • Consider wicking beds for veggies – the most water-efficient form of veggie gardening
  • Use passive watering by directing water from hard surfaces to gardens
    • look for ways of directing path and driveway run off into garden beds
    • on sloping sites, use water harvesting micro earthworks like ‘swales’ and mulch paths on contour to minimise surface runoff, and collect water from hard surfaces
    • consider water tanks to capture rainwater from the roof
  • Employ grey water – there’s usually a low budget way of collecting shower and laundry water, or you can get a plumber to install a pit and pump system
  • By planting edible plants you can save on ‘embodied water’ in the food system, because by employing these strategies we can grow food with a tiny fraction of the water used on the farm and in processing